It's May, and that means it is almost time for the Moon to cast its shadow on the Earth and create a wonderful spectacle in the afternoon sky. On Sunday May 20th, we will experience a very significant Solar Eclipse, a very rare and exciting "Ring of Fire," also known as an Annular Eclipse.
The afternoon of Sunday 20th, much of the western United States will see a very deep partial eclipse of the Sun. But in a special path across Northern California and several western states, we will witness the Moon fully enclosed within the disk of the Sun, creating a beautiful "Ring of Fire" effect. This effect will only last about 4 minutes, and will only be visible from the special path. Earth-Sky has an excellent overview article about the eclipse. If you choose to remain in San Francisco, you will see a very deep (90%) eclipse of the Sun, but if you travel a few hours north, you will experience the full Annular effect.
Ring of Fire Road Trip or my past blog post. But you have lots of choices, and depending upon the weather outlook, you will want to have some mobility to get to a good viewing spot in case of (gasp!) clouds. Here is a much more detailed map from Eclipse-Maps.com.
One of the most important factors when preparing to watch an eclipse is eye protection. I encourage all readers to purchase specialized viewing equipment such as eclipse glasses or a shade 14 welder's filter. At all times, the intense radiation from the Sun can cause permanent eye damage and even blindness, and during an eclipse it is tempting to stare up at the Sun. However, with simple planning and preparation, you can enjoy the eclipse without any fear of damaging your eyesight. Mr. Eclipse has some valuable information about eye safety and resources for buying solar glasses.
I wish all of you clear skies and a great view of this special event.
Map courtesy of Eclipse-Maps.com.